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  • Do I have any legal rights here??

    I did a family session a few months ago, and gave the family their photos on a CD, with printing rights, and personal use - that's all - no copyright to them whatseover. I've read it over and over on here - "Have a contract!" and I KNOW I should have, but I went to their home, and completely forgot to bring one along. STUPID, and I realized it when I got there. It was all very last minute - a twin newborn session the day they were released from the hospital. The father's stationed in Afghanistan, and was only home for that one last day before being sent back. I went ahead and did the session without a contract.

    Well the mom has since started her own photography business, and has 2 of my images on the homepage of her website! I have asked her to remove them, but what if she doesn't? Do I have any legal right to them anymore?
    www.audreyspearphotography.com

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  • #2
    yes you own the copyright, contract or not. The only way she would own the copyright is she has it in writing.. I would suggest registeroing the images with the copyright office first, then you can collect for damages if it goes that far..I'm assuming you have the RAW files with exif data? Thats all you'll need to prove your case..
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    • #3
      Originally posted by audreylynn3 View Post
      I did a family session a few months ago, and gave the family their photos on a CD, with printing rights, and personal use - that's all - no copyright to them whatseover. I've read it over and over on here - "Have a contract!" and I KNOW I should have, but I went to their home, and completely forgot to bring one along. STUPID, and I realized it when I got there. It was all very last minute - a twin newborn session the day they were released from the hospital. The father's stationed in Afghanistan, and was only home for that one last day before being sent back. I went ahead and did the session without a contract.

      Well the mom has since started her own photography business, and has 2 of my images on the homepage of her website! I have asked her to remove them, but what if she doesn't? Do I have any legal right to them anymore?
      You certainly do have a legal right - it is called copyright.
      Copyright means that ONLY the copyright owner can publicly display the images unless specific permission has been given.

      You can do a couple of things.
      Send her a bill with a usage license.
      Send a take down notice.

      If ignored then send a letter threatening legal action.

      OR..... if you want to be nice about it, just tell her to credit you with the images and let her leave them up.
      If there are no stupid questions, then what kind of questions do stupid people ask? Do they get smart just in time to ask questions?

      Personal work

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      • #4
        I think you may want to contact a lawyer, rather than take advice on the internet. What does personal use mean? What is the legal definition? She may claim you gave her the right to use them personally and she is using them personally for her business. May not be as black and white as it seems. OR maybe it is. Actually, the "law" is only what a given judge decides it is on a given day.
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        • #5
          Contact Carolyn Wright at Photoattorney.com

          Plus, I'd call her out on any social sites she may have as using someone else's photos to promote her work.

          AND, if it's worth talking about, it's worth naming names.
          Best,
          Jim
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          • #6
            Originally posted by audreylynn3 View Post
            I did a family session a few months ago, and gave the family their photos on a CD, with printing rights, and personal use - that's all - no copyright to them whatseover. I've read it over and over on here - "Have a contract!" and I KNOW I should have, but I went to their home, and completely forgot to bring one along. STUPID, and I realized it when I got there. It was all very last minute - a twin newborn session the day they were released from the hospital. The father's stationed in Afghanistan, and was only home for that one last day before being sent back. I went ahead and did the session without a contract.

            Well the mom has since started her own photography business, and has 2 of my images on the homepage of her website! I have asked her to remove them, but what if she doesn't? Do I have any legal right to them anymore?
            Should probably wait until she responds before you panic. Maybe being called out via email will be enough. If she doesn't, don't take any half measures, and tell her she should be on the look out for a letter form your lawyer.
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            • #7
              Originally posted by kirbinster View Post
              I think you may want to contact a lawyer, rather than take advice on the internet. What does personal use mean? What is the legal definition? She may claim you gave her the right to use them personally and she is using them personally for her business. May not be as black and white as it seems. OR maybe it is. Actually, the "law" is only what a given judge decides it is on a given day.
              I'd call a lawyer, too. I like Jim's suggesting of contacting photoattorney....I've heard great things about her! If you're a member of PPA you can contact them, too.

              Regarding "using them personally for her business" sounds a bit like an oxymoron to me. Personal use is personal. To promote one's business is commercial. I suppose there might be loopholes, but I doubt it.

              And as Jim said, I'm curious about who this chick is, and I'd LOVE to see a link to her site with a note of which images are yours.

              Reminds me a bit of that Groupon fiasco recently when Dana Dawes put up a ridiculous Groupon ad and stole images and wording from other photographers.

              Why people will steal images and try to claim them as their own to promote their own businesses is a complete mystery to me, as well as stupid. I mean really....if a client books you because they expect their photographs to be of the same quality and same style on your site, is it really that surprising they might be disappointed and pretty pissed if they don't? Kind of a no-brainer there. Sigh...............







              ETA: Although I've considered stealing Ruthie's photos to put on my site. But she's scary and I know she'd kick my ass.
              Last edited by SusanH1970; 12-17-2010, 02:15 AM.
              Susan
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              • #8
                Thank you everyone for the responses! (I did put her website in, but changed my mind - I'd really like to give her a little time to react to my email. I don't want to make her look bad, just looking for advice for myself. Does that make sense?)

                BuddhaPi - Yes I still have the RAW file with exif, that was my first thought, and I never give RAW files out.

                andyw - Thanks, I was really hoping the copyright would stay mine, since I didn't specifically sign it over.

                kirbinster - Thanks, I would certainly contact an attorney if it came down to needing one, I was just hoping someone here could point me in the right direction.

                Jim Poor - Thank you for the name of the attorney - THAT helps alot!

                Niresangwa - I know I should be patient, and see what she does, but I was SO shocked to see them I didn't even know what to do!

                SusanH1970 - My thoughts exactly - I wouldn't have such a negative reaction if she'd used them in an "About Me" section or something similar, but the way they're presented, they look as though they're her work.
                Last edited by audreylynn3; 12-17-2010, 02:53 PM. Reason: ETA: Removed the website
                www.audreyspearphotography.com

                "Like me" on Facebook! facebook.com/audreyspearphotography

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by BuddhaPi View Post
                  yes you own the copyright, contract or not. The only way she would own the copyright is she has it in writing.. I would suggest registeroing the images with the copyright office first, then you can collect for damages if it goes that far..I'm assuming you have the RAW files with exif data? Thats all you'll need to prove your case..
                  Something tells me this is one issue that is good for my Nikon D90 and D7000. I do not copyright my photos but on both cameras I can type in the comment setting my name. This is then put into exif data of evey picture I take.
                  [http://community.webshots.com/user/FranksPhotography

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by SusanH1970 View Post

                    Reminds me a bit of that Groupon fiasco recently when Dana Dawes put up a ridiculous Groupon ad and stole images and wording from other photographers.

                    ETA: Although I've considered stealing Ruthie's photos to put on my site. But she's scary and I know she'd kick my ass.
                    Both are my thoughts exactly!
                    http://bendoutashape.com
                    It's ok to edit my pics for DPS only / critique is always welcome!

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by TheEagleSpirit View Post
                      Something tells me this is one issue that is good for my Nikon D90 and D7000. I do not copyright my photos but on both cameras I can type in the comment setting my name. This is then put into exif data of evey picture I take.
                      What do you mean you don't copyright your photos. Copyright isn't something we do, it's something that just is. Your photos are copyright protected the instant they are made.

                      Registration and watermarking, though good ideas, are not required for copyright to "take effect." They can affect the outcome and even ability to file a case though.
                      Best,
                      Jim
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                      • #12
                        As has already been said, copyright is legally granted to whomever took the photo (at the instant the shutter is fired) so you are the legal owner. Registering the image with the copyright office offers you additional protections with monetary penalties for violations.

                        However, it would seem this person doesn't understand copyright and is using your image to promote her business. That is wrong no matter how you slice it. Even if she DID own the copyright (which must be transferred in writing), it's still highly unethical to use a photo you didn't take to promote your photography business.

                        You can certainly call an attorney but they will likely charge you. The quicker solution, if she doesn't respond, is to file a DMCA complaint with her ISP (I can help you find this if needed). The DMCA allows for the copyright owner to file complaints and the ISP will, legally, be forced to shut down her site until the infringed material is removed. It's a fairly simple process that will get your photos off of her site (or shut her site down).

                        Now if you want money, then talk to an attorney but, beware, it is typically very expensive to prosecute these cases so you'll want to make sure its worth it before proceeding.
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                        • #13
                          Thank you Brian, I appreciate your thoughts. I like the idea of contacting her ISP, if it comes to that. I don't want to go to an attorney because of the cost, but I (obviously!) want her to take them down. She replied back to me, saying she understood and would remove them, but they're still on. I figure I'll give her until mid-January, after the holidays are over, and send a "not so nice" email, and then get vicious from there.
                          www.audreyspearphotography.com

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by audreylynn3 View Post
                            Thank you Brian, I appreciate your thoughts. I like the idea of contacting her ISP, if it comes to that. I don't want to go to an attorney because of the cost, but I (obviously!) want her to take them down. She replied back to me, saying she understood and would remove them, but they're still on. I figure I'll give her until mid-January, after the holidays are over, and send a "not so nice" email, and then get vicious from there.
                            Many attorney's will take the case on contingency, so cost really isn't an issue.
                            Best,
                            Jim
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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by audreylynn3 View Post
                              snip. She replied back to me, saying she understood and would remove them, but they're still on. I figure I'll give her until mid-January, after the holidays are over, and send a "not so nice" email, and then get vicious from there.
                              Don't wait until mid-January. Send her another e-mail today, and everyother day, until she takes them down or a stated deadline is met (ie, Jan. 2). Keep copies so you can forward them to her ISP with your complaint to them. When she calls you to whine about her site being down, you can simply state you had asked, she did not follow through, so you did.

                              Delaying just says you are not serious about protecting your images.

                              My 2 cents...
                              AnneWynne
                              Psychologist, Coach, Photographer
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